For anyone who has been in the job market or considering a return to job hunting, having a well-written resume is a no-brainer. What does require a lot of thinking, however, is what makes a winning resume.
In essence, your goal should be to have a written tool that communicates your skills, reflects your professionalism and organisation, and moves ahead in the hiring process. You also want to make sure it grabs the hiring manager’s attention for as long as possible.
All of that can’t be accomplished by just offering basic general information — even if your resume is free of spelling and grammar errors, nicely formatted and styled. The only way you’ll be able to get and retain the employer’s attention is by offering specific information that demonstrate your experience as the right match for the job opening.
Here are five points to keep in mind when you’re reviewing or rewriting your resume in the process of applying for a job.
1. Read the job requirements
Many miss on a great opportunity when they rush to send a resume for a job without dwelling on what the job entails as well as its specific requirements. When you read the details of a job post, you will be able to know which requirements are unlikely to be compromised and those that are just preferable. If you meet some or all the requirements, make sure you state it clearly and specifically. In short, use the job post as your score card. Mark the keywords that may make or break the decision of the hiring manager, and make sure they are addressed in your resume and the cover letter.
While this may sound like the purpose of the cover letter, your resume still has to tell a future employer the story of your career and how you’ve reached the current position and status. Remember you won’t be physically there to explain, for example, how your accomplishments in a previous job led to a promotion.
However, if you clearly lay out these accomplishments that support your career advancement, you may be to show your progress and communicate how you excelled in previous jobs and positioned yourself for promotion and advancement based on meritocracy.
When you tailor your resume to apply for a particular job, you can easily address any concerns that the employer may have based on your understanding of the job requirements and your own set of skills.
For example, if a job requires a minimum number of years of experience, you may get some good points by explaining work experience done on a volunteer basis, in an internship or as part-time. While you won’t be, and shouldn’t be, making up for missing skills, polishing your existing qualifications may give you an edge and get you closer to the area where a hiring manager can make compromises.
4. Apply for the right job
The closer you look at a specific job’s requirements, the better you will be in detecting the position that fits you best, particularly if the company has a number of openings in your area. Since the last thing, you’d want is to be considered for a job that is below your skills or be disqualified for not meeting the skills of a higher position, take a close look at the different jobs advertised and be sure your time and effort are not in vain.
Once you identified the right job, make sure your resume exactly responds to its requirements — even if you eventually may be willing to take a different position. The point is to present a complete package that reduces the number of question marks raised by the employer.
This doesn’t mean to just update the top of your curriculum vitae or a resume with the latest job. What you actually need to do is to review every section and make sure that you don’t have something that can be taken against you in terms of career gaps, irrelevant experience or otherwise.
Remember, some jobs lose their significance as you grow older and more experience. For example, a three-month summer internship may be a good addition if you just have a couple of years of experience under your belt. But a decade later, it may only be taking space that can be better used to explain your accomplishments that are more recent and more relevant to the job that you’re applying for.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a journalist based in Seattle.